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Australia’s National Obesity Strategy

08 / 04 / 20

We compiled an evidence based submission to the National Obesity Strategy consultation, here is a summary of the submission.

  • A ten-year timeline as presented in the draft strategy is not realistic considering the complexity involved and the action required. A decade could be a first phase of urgent action.
  • The SRAS fully supports a government led commitment that prioritises partnerships, collaboration and shared responsibility, although how this is managed is critical for stakeholder relationships and engagement to enable inter-sectoral action. A whole of society response is needed.
  • Using the WHO BMI definition of overweight and obesity may miss individuals at risk due to high levels of central fat deposition.
  • Excluding tertiary prevention for those already experiencing obesity should be reconsidered. A cost-effective approach may be to prevent those already overweight from progressing to obesity, saving an estimated $8 billion dollars and this is likely an underestimate.
  • The proposed strategy does not present as a rigorous, evidence-based document. Two independent reviews are not adequate to inform a national strategy. Many of the activities presented are not supported by the evidence presented.
  • We recommended a whole system approach to the issue, similar to the UK National Health Service commissioned report in 2019. Benefits include collective action, local community penetration, maximise local area assets, address health inequalities, develop transferrable skills, and complexities are recognised. A suite of activities across multiple settings is not the same as a ‘systems approach’.
  • Supporting children and families is important although how this will be done is still unclear, and the activities suggested appear not to be well supported by evidence from the review presented.
  • A narrow focus on limiting specific foods such as sugars is not consistent with dietary guidelines that advise against avoiding any specific food or drink, and may have unintended consequences such as enhancing the desire for such foods/drinks.
  • We support the use of community knowledge, strengths and connections to enable health, however the evidence review does not provide the science to support the inclusion of activities such as media campaigns and curbing sports sponsorship as effective in changing behaviour or impacting body weight
  • The use of warning labels on food is inconsistent with whole of diet messaging as per the Dietary Guidelines, and based on a limited scientific evidence for effects on body weight
  • The effect of price increases on sugary beverages consumption and body weight in the Australian context is not clear
  • We support the use of evidence-based reports such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines, however these must be updated to incorporate the latest scientific developments.
  • We support the need for adequate funding to allow sustainable interventions and preventive action.